How my ‘Speaking Journey’ Began

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On my first day at the University of Sydney a very long time ago, a lecture theater rather like this one but larger was full of new students. This was our Orientation and to welcome us to the University there were amusing and clever speeches given by some of the Unis most popular lecturers. All of the rowdy students became quiet and gave the speakers their full attention. Of course there were times of great laughter but at other times there was absolute silence and the students listened to every wise word. I was awe-struck and realized then that if I was going to be a successful academic, I would have to learn to be a great, or at least good speaker! This thought terrified me. At school, although I was one of the brightest in the class, I had always worried if I had to get up and even read something to the class. So what was I going to do? How could I overcome my fears and learn to speak in public? I decided to join a couple of Societies that were relevant to my course and my interests – as this was the week when the Societies were asking new students to join them – and I decided (heart in mouth) to volunteer to be the freshman representative on the committee of the Biological Society. This mightn’t seem a very brave or difficult thing to do for those of you who are more confident and it certainly wouldn’t seem difficult to me now but back then, for me it was very brave. I can no longer remember my first Committee meeting but I can still remember the first time I was asked to speak to the Committee. My throat was dry, the stomach was churning, my hands were sweaty and of course my voice was shaky. It took many meetings for me to become more confident but gradually by watching and copying how others behaved I did become more competent. So this is one way you can start your speaking journey and it did help ….but funnily enough I still find speaking at meetings a little scary and I think that although I’ve learned to speak confidently, some of my early terror has become permanently stuck to meetings!

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